Postseismic coastal development in Aceh, Indonesia: Field observations and numerical modeling

Katrin Monecke*, Ella Meilianda, Dirk Jan Walstra, Emma M. Hill, Brian G. McAdoo, Qiang Qiu, Joep E.A. Storms, Aisha Sri Masputri, Cut Deasy Mayasari, Muhammad Nasir, Indra Riandi, Agus Setiawan, Caroline K. Templeton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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We model postseismic changes to the shoreline of West Aceh, Indonesia, a region largely affected by the December 2004 Sumatra-Andaman earthquake and ensuing Indian Ocean tsunami, using a cross-shore morphodynamic model. Subsidence of 0.5–1.0 m and tsunami scouring during the 2004 event caused the complete destruction of the beach and the landward displacement of the western coast of Aceh by an average of 110 m. Comparing a series of satellite images and topographic surveys, we reconstruct the build-up of a new beach ridge along a 6 km long stretch of coastline in the years following the event. We then use the cross-shore model UNIBEST-TC developed for a wave-dominated sandy shoreline to determine the controlling factors of shoreline recovery. Input parameters include bathymetric data measured in 2015, grain size characteristics of offshore sediment samples, modeled wave data, tidal elevations from a nearby tide-gauge station as well as measured and modeled postseismic uplift data. After establishing a cross-shore profile in equilibrium with the prevailing hydrodynamic conditions, we simulate the post-tsunami recovery, the effect of the monsoon seasons, as well as the influence of postseismic land level changes for up to 10 years and compare them to the observed coastal development. Our modeling results indicate that the recovery of the western Acehnese shoreline after the 2004 tsunami was quick with littoral sediment transport normalizing to pre-tsunami conditions within two to four years following the event. However, field data shows that the shoreline stabilized 50–90 m landward of its pre-2004 tsunami position, most likely due to the build-up of a prominent higher beach ridge in response to coseismic subsidence. Observed variability in shoreline position in the order of a few tens of meters since 2009 can be attributed to seasonal wave climate variability related to the monsoon cycle. The effect of postseismic uplift on shoreline position is small and in the order of only a few meters over 10 years, which is 3 to 5 times smaller than long-term coastal progradation rates that are driven by abundant sediment supply to the littoral zone. This overall progradational trend will promote preservation of seismically modified beach ridges, which can serve as paleoseismic indicators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-104
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Geology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2017


  • 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami
  • Aceh (Indonesia)
  • Beach ridge morphology
  • Coastal hazards
  • Coastal modeling
  • Paleoseismology


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